Date: 17th November 2016 at 4:42pm
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All 20 Premier League clubs met earlier today for their standard chitchat – and safe standing was on the agenda.

With the announcement at the beginning of the week that a discussion on safe standing would form part of the official meeting between top flight clubs, as many would imagine, no conclusions or decisions were made on the day other than to schedule the topic again for further discussion as a natural matter of business – which safe standing fans should take as another step in the right direction.

The BBC report on the meeting and they have West Ham co chairman David Gold as saying that he felt the meeting represented the ‘first steps towards safe standing’ with the implication being the the conversation was upbeat, with interest from those clubs who had yet to give their backing to a return to seated areas – but with the obvious proviso of safety being paramount given the background to top flight stadiums becoming all seater in the first place.

With a seemingly positive response, the BBC report that Everton for example had indicated that they are ‘not considering’ a return to safe standing irrespective of what the Premier League and member clubs may decide in the future – and you can understand why Everton and Liverpool would be likely to take that standpoint.

Hillsborough Support Group secretary Sue Roberts, who lost her brother at Hillsborough, said of further talks being on the table that she felt it would be a backwards step.

‘We have a tendency to forget things in history. I think it’s one step in the wrong direction, that will lead to another and another. I would hate to be still around to say I told you so.’

And whilst her feelings and reticence to see a return to standing can be clearly appreciated, the fact is there is a groundswell of fans who wish the option – there are thousands of fans who stand in seated areas – and there are many thousands of fans across Europe, and now Celtic in their trial, who stand safely week in and week out with the ‘rail seat’ option where there is no concern, problems or issues.

So there does have to be a balanced approach to this in discussion, whilst also accepting there will be those both for and against.

And it’s very much still early stages when it comes to discussion in any event, as there would still need to be an amendment to the law before anything could happen in England.

Premier League director of communication, Dan Johnson, added.

‘Maybe at some clubs it might be how do we create an atmosphere and maintain it. But I think a lot of it is to do with listening to their fans and hearing they’re interested in looking at it. It is very early stages. It’s a very emotive subject still, we’re acutely aware of that. A number of our clubs do want to discuss it so it’s on the agenda.’

Adding.

‘We will discuss that but beyond that the only thing I can see happening at these early stages is a scoping exercise, talking to interested stakeholders – including fans’ groups and Hillsborough families, but also talking with the government because the legislation is still in place for all-seater stadiums. I know it will create discussion, but it’s a long road and it might not necessarily lead to the introduction of safe standing.’

When the topic is next up for debate, it’s reported that clubs have asked for specific information on safety, fan thoughts, technical issues and legislative issues, so they can be factored in moving forward.

Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn, added himself.

‘We’ve got different history to Germany. We’ve had Hillsborough, and they haven’t. We have got to tread very carefully because our number one duty is to create a safe environment for fans watching football.’

Adding about Celtic introducing a 3000 strong rail seat area this season.

‘There’s a lot we can learn from the way Celtic are doing it. We need to look at what the facts are and then calmly make a decision after that. We’ll work with the whole game to come up with an aligned point of view.’

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